How and Why to Show Hedgehogs Some Springtime Love
Spring is in the air, which means that all over the country, hedgehogs may be starting to blink in the sunlight and wake up from their winter hibernation.
You probably don’t need much persuasion to let these adorable nocturnal animals into your heart. But to give you some extra motivation to love them, here are five of our favourite things about them – and five pieces of advice about how to help them out.
Five Reasons to Love Hedgehogs
- Hedgehogs are unique. They’re the only UK mammal with spines: each hedgehog has about 5,000 of them, which can grow up to 2.5-cm long.
- Hedgehogs are sleepyheads. They’re one of only three animals that hibernate in Britain (along with the bat and the dormouse), and during their winter snooze, their heartbeat drops dramatically from 190 to just 20 beats per minute.
- Hedgehogs are more agile than they look. They can travel up to 4 km in one night and have even been known to scale walls and climb the branches of small trees.
- Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets. They’re born with soft spines under the skin to protect their mothers. A second set of spines emerges after a few days.
- Hedgehogs need our help! Their numbers have dropped by at least a quarter in the UK in the last decade because of factors such as loss of habitat, increased pesticide use and tidier gardens.
Five Ways to Show Hedgehogs That You Care
- Never feed hedgehogs milk! Most hedgehogs are dangerously lactose intolerant, so a saucer of milk is likely to make them ill (as well as involving cruelty to cows). They are, however, partial to snacks such as chopped peanuts and muesli.
- Avoid a tragic accident in your garden by checking long grass before you cut it in order to make sure that no hedgehogs are hiding there. In the autumn, watch out for hedgehogs in piles of dry leaves before starting a bonfire.
- Spotted a hedgehog? Tell the 2013 Hibernation Survey about it. The information will be used to find better ways to protect hedgehogs.
- Turn your garden into a hedgehog haven. Make small holes in the bottom of your fences or walls to allow them to pass through, leave a messy area where they can nest and don’t use poisonous slug pellets.
- If you find a sick or injured hedgehog staggering around during the day, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801. But as with all wild animals, it’s best to leave healthy hedgehogs to their own devices.